Addressing an ANC cadres forum in Pietermaritzburg on Friday night, Zuma said he was well aware of who was stealing public money and that he was “watching them”, but not acting on the knowledge.
Speaking mainly in Zulu, Zuma said: “It’s like those who steal today – they say Zuma steals while they are the worst thieves. They have investigated me all over but they are finding nothing because I’m not doing anything.
“If they have found it, it would be over [for me]. Those are the thieves and I know they are stealing. I’m just watching them. I know them,” he said.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said it was “embarrassing that a head of state” was boasting about failing to act against criminal and corrupt activities.
“He’s spitting on the constitution. It says the rule of law is irrelevant,” said Maimane.
He said he would take up the matter with the Hawks this week when he meets them to discuss the criminal charges he laid against Zuma on Tuesday, relating to the public protector’s state capture report.
Maimane laid the charges under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, after the public protector found that Zuma had failed to act on bribery allegations involving the Gupta family.
“Nobody will trust Zuma when he says he will tackle corruption. The reason he does not want to prosecute these people is because they are part of his faction.”
Advocate Paul Hoffman SC of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa said Zuma’s remarks displayed his poor understanding of his constitutional duties.
“It’s dereliction of his constitutional obligation to uphold the rule of law, if he knows who is stealing and he does nothing about that. It’s yet another manifestation of his complete lack of insight into the duties and responsibilities of a president in our constitutional democratic dispensation.
“It ought to worry the ANC that he has failure of insight on this duties, that he’s prepared to stand up and say things like that,” said Hoffman.
Zuma told supporters on Friday that he was not perturbed when he was labelled a “dog”.
“Let’s stop worrying about nothing. I will always be here, for better or for worse. You can lie and spread lies until they are all over,” he said.
Zuma also said positions did not matter; what was important was the ANC.
“A position is just a by-the-way thing. It’s just a reward from comrades when they see you are working hard … you are not given it permanently, such that when you are removed you start a war. You move over and support the next person,” said Zuma.
Zuma said the ANC as a liberation movement was suffering from the challenges of incumbency, as were all liberation movements in Africa.
He also lectured the ANC members about the global balance of power, saying the only sin South Africa had committed was to be part of Brics, an association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which he said had upset Western powers and rocked the global establishment.
“They know that Russia and China are not only the biggest economies in Brics but they are permanent members of the [UN] Security Council whose vote can veto any decisions. And us being part of that does not sit well … South Africa was also the one that pushed for the Brics bank. They do not love us and that is why they want to destroy South Africa,” he said.
Zuma has been addressing a series of ANC gatherings in KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC’s biggest province in terms of membership. Party insiders say this is a bid to ensure that branches rally behind the candidacy of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to head the ANC.
ANC sources in the province said Zuma would in coming months spend a lot of time addressing party members there and in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.
“These are key provinces mainly for their numbers in every ANC conference, and secondly because this is where divisions and factionalism are likely to thrive. The president’s engagement will [focus on] unity, organisational renewal and leadership lessons,” said a senior KwaZulu-Natal leader.